This month, we’re focusing on the monumental impact that a father has upon his son or daughter. Numerous books, articles, publications, and even scientific data has been produced over the years that has literally proved the significance of a father who is present to his  children. Few relationships matter more to a person than the kind of relationship they have with their parents. And I would argue that the kind of relationship we have with our dads is  foundational to the kind of people we will become. 

The opposite is also true: Many potentially reading this post didn’t even have a relationship with their biological fathers. And depending on the individual or stage of life they learned this critical piece of information, this could have massive implications upon their future. I’m convinced even for those who grow up without a dad in their lives, they are missing a relationship that is so important. 

So whether you’ve had a father present to you or one who was completely absent, there’s no question, in many ways you’ve been shaped by that relationship. There are many aspects we could explore in a relationship with a father and a child, but I felt compelled to focus on the  emotional connection that I believe molds a child. 

I turned 41 just a couple months ago. My wife & I have a 10 year old son and an 8 year old daughter. As our kids have grown, I’ve seen the importance of staying connected to their  hearts. I’ve seen their need and their desire for emotional connection from their dad. And as I’ve been a parent myself, I’ve often thought of the kind of emotional connection I had with my dad when I was a child. I knew that my dad loved me. There was no question about that. But looking back I don’t think my dad really knew me at a deeper emotional level. Maybe he tried or maybe he didn’t know how. But to some degree that shaped me. 

I love this thought from Samson Society

“We learn about feelings in childhood by our parents being in tune with our needs, mirroring and  responding to our needs consistently that our feelings are accepted and valuable…or on the  reverse side, we learn that our feelings are ‘bad’ or burdensome, lead to isolation, shame, or  punishment, and are things to avoid/shut down/silence. Many parents who fail to understand  their child’s emotional needs are well-meaning parents who have been emotionally neglected  themselves and are unaware of how they can help their child to learn about feelings. In other  words, it’s the perpetuation of intergenerational trauma.” 

Take a second to read that quote again. I’m sure that was a lot to take in. If we were to summarize, it would be this: Your ability to process your emotions in your adult years is strongly related to how well your parents were able to sit with you and your emotions in your childhood years. Obviously, every male is wired differently. And then when he becomes a father, the hope is that he will do everything he can (hopefully) to love his children well. But the reality is you don’t know what you don’t know. 

If you came from a home that was distant, silent, and hands off, no doubt there will be something you’re missing that you needed. That’s been proven. And more often than not, children who don’t have a fortified relationship with their dads often look for that affirmation in other places. Perhaps you tried to meet that need through pornography like I did. It may be through other substances or behaviors. It could be from the same or the opposite sex. Anywhere and anything that will deliver that sense of love and support that you were looking for as a kid.

This topic is highly convicting for me. Because when I look back on my childhood and see  what was missing from my parents, I can see holes there. And while I’ve gotten healthier over the years at loving my family well, there are still plenty of areas that I struggle to connect with my kids on. Even at a deeper emotional level. Certainly there can be other contributing factors,  but I think it’s fair to say that some of it comes from my childhood and what was modeled  towards me. 

Regardless of the past, I can say that at 41 years old that I’ve both taken responsibility and  continue to take responsibility over the depth of emotional connection with those closest to me. I not only want to be physically present to my kids, but deeply connected to their hearts as  well. My wife & I have often commented to each other that we want our kids to feel safe with  us. We want them to always feel comfortable talking with us about anything they’re facing. 

Emotional abandonment, absence, and wounding can go a long time without the proper  attention and healing it deserves. I want to encourage you to consider spending time with a  therapist that is specialized in helping you explore emotional wounding from childhood. If you have the means and the opportunity, spending time one-on-one with someone who can walk  with you through your pain is invaluable. Another experience that will most assuredly advance you in recovery is a communal experience where you are regularly meeting with other individuals. There are many helpful support groups available — both in person and online. You can check out Small Groups Online here

Here’s the bottom line: We all have a need to feel emotionally connected to those closest to us. And the role of a father is truly pivotal to the health and direction of a child’s life. If you are a father and you’re reading this article, pay close attention to your connection with your children. And if you struggle with “closeness” and issues of emotional intimacy, take an honest look at  your childhood. There may be clues there as to why it’s hard for you to help others navigate their emotions if you didn’t really feel supported with yours growing up.